© HELLMOUTHS

"That’s what friends are for, right?"

"No, I mean it, Zeke. Thank you. If I hadn’t had you last night… he probably would have gotten me and done worse things. He’s probably calm by now, but still."

"Has this happened before..?" Zeke whispered, turning the burner off.

"It has."

"And you’re still with him?"

"Things happen, Zeke—nobody’s perfect. It’s fine," Carmen said, wrapping her arms around him in an awkward hug from behind. She grabbed his hand and smiled into his shoulder, letting herself cry again.

He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t fine, that you can’t just do that to people, but he held his tongue and nodded. She obviously didn’t want to talk about it, so he let it be.

7
"Oh, hi, Carmen. Sleep well?"
"Sort of." Actually, she had slept extremely well for the first time in quite a while, but she wasn’t about to say that. She didn’t want to seem too…forward or whatever.
"Feeling better?"
"Still a little shaky, but yeah, I guess. I can go home today." Zeke looked up from the macaroni, a surprised look on his face.
"You don’t have to—"
"Yes, I do," Carmen said flatly. There was something odd about her directness, but Zeke shoved that thought aside for a moment.
"Carmen, you’re always safe here. I want you to know that. I don’t know what happened, and I have a feeling you’re not going to tell me, but with me, you’ll always be safe."
"Thank you. And, ah…thank you for helping me. Really. I appreciate it."

"Oh, hi, Carmen. Sleep well?"

"Sort of." Actually, she had slept extremely well for the first time in quite a while, but she wasn’t about to say that. She didn’t want to seem too…forward or whatever.

"Feeling better?"

"Still a little shaky, but yeah, I guess. I can go home today." Zeke looked up from the macaroni, a surprised look on his face.

"You don’t have to—"

"Yes, I do," Carmen said flatly. There was something odd about her directness, but Zeke shoved that thought aside for a moment.

"Carmen, you’re always safe here. I want you to know that. I don’t know what happened, and I have a feeling you’re not going to tell me, but with me, you’ll always be safe."

"Thank you. And, ah…thank you for helping me. Really. I appreciate it."

9

When she woke up, Carmen had the worst headache she’d had since her first college years. She had a vague sense of fear and pain still lingering over her, but more than that, she felt safe. Comfortable. For a moment, Carmen couldn’t quite place things—whose house was she in again?—but then she remembered it all. And wished she hadn’t.

The smell of something coming from the kitchen overtook Carmen for the moment and she sauntered out into the living room.

"Whatever you’re cooking, it smells absolutely delightful."

7

"Okay, Carmen, sweetie, let’s just get you to bed. You’ve had a rough day," Zeke said in a soothingly calm voice. Carmen nodded and let him stand her up, let him lead her into his bedroom. She let him get her out of that constricting dress and let him slide a too-big shirt over her head. She let him gently untangle her previously perfect updo, washing her hair with warm water in the sink, taking notice of the lacerations on the back of her head. She had been right: head injuries do bleed a lot more than they should.

The last thing she remembered was his warm smile. He was so nice

9

"What happened to you?" Zeke frowned at the sight before him, feeling nothing but empathy for the woman standing in front of him. All he wanted to do was comfort her. He flicked the lightswitch.

"I-I-he got drunk again and he-he-" Carmen burst out in tears, shaking her head. She tried to say more, but Zeke cut her off, pulling her inside and shutting the door quietly behind her. He sat her down on his couch and went to get a warm washrag.

"Calm down, sweetie. He can’t hurt you here."

Sniffling endlessly and bleeding everywhere, Carmen just shook her head. She reached up to wipe away her tears and immediately jerked back, remembering he broke that arm. 

Zeke wrung out the rag and gently washed her face, rinsing away the bleeding mascara and the smeared lipstick. There were numerous cuts and scratches on her face, which he took great care to avoid; however, he couldn’t help but worry about the blood that seemed to be pouring down her neck. Zeke tilted her head back gently and instantly recoiled.

7

"Oh, my God… Carmen…"

6
Carmen
You are a terrible actress

Carmen

You are a terrible actress

7
Once Carmen had sped out of the parking lot and disappeared in traffic, Carmen let out a breath of relief. Yes, she shouldn’t be driving with a broken arm, but what else was there to do? A taxi would only take her to a hospital, and she didn’t want that at all. Then he could come back and take her home, and punish her.
What would she do—where would she go? She knew next to no one in this city. She couldn’t go home, where he would surely have gone.
Carmen did the only thing she could think of. She called Zeke.

Once Carmen had sped out of the parking lot and disappeared in traffic, Carmen let out a breath of relief. Yes, she shouldn’t be driving with a broken arm, but what else was there to do? A taxi would only take her to a hospital, and she didn’t want that at all. Then he could come back and take her home, and punish her.

What would she do—where would she go? She knew next to no one in this city. She couldn’t go home, where he would surely have gone.

Carmen did the only thing she could think of. She called Zeke.

8

"Get OFF of me, you rat bastard! Aaron! Let GO of me!"

"No, I don’t think I will. No one kicks me and gets away with it," Aaron hissed, twisting her arm at an unnatural angle. Carmen cried out, hoping someone would hear before he got her. Leave it to Bridgeport to let someone be raped, be beaten. Her head bleeding and her arm throbbing with pain so intense she was nearly blinded, Carmen panicked. Acting in fear, she elbowed Aaron in the gut with her unbroken arm. He let her go, clutching his stomach. While he was still keeling over, Carmen kneed him in the jaw-hopefully knocking out one of his contacts. He staggered backwards. She wouldn’t let him do this. Not again. Heart racing, Carmen dashed to her car, got in, and shoved the key in the ignition. 

8